Norwich cast into the national spotlight at culture conference

Children from Sistema in Norwich's Lakenham Primary School orchestra perform at the Arts Development

Children from Sistema in Norwich's Lakenham Primary School orchestra perform at the Arts Development UK conference at The Halls. Photo: supplied. - Credit: supplied

Norwich is being cast into the cultural spotlight as a national conference about the arts takes place in the city.

About 120 arts leaders from across the country have gathered to attend the two-day event - called Our Cultural Commons - which has been organised by Arts Development UK (AD:UK) in association with Voluntary Arts.

The event kicked off at the The Halls yesterday with a performance by children from Sistema in Norwich, the city's civic charity which works to transform young people's lives through music.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council and cabinet member for culture, spoke of the city's pride in being a cultural city and the importance of the arts.

'The city of Norwich has always seen itself as a city of culture and it is part of our DNA actually as a city. Creativity and the arts are part of the fabric of Norwich,' he said, highlighting organisations such as the Theatre Royal and Norwich University of the Arts, the city's parks, big events like the Lord Mayor's Celebration and the city's UNESCO City of Literature status.

He also spoke of how the city council continued to sustain funding for the arts despite difficult financial times because it valued its importance, and how making the arts accessible to all had a key role in helping to lessen inequality.

Jane Wilson, AD:UK chairman, highlighted the importance of local leadership in developing and sustaining creative communities. Afterwards she praised Sistema in Norwich as a great example of a creative project.

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'We are about arts and people and place, and people working together to address issues like cultural wellbeing and how young people develop,' she said.

'This morning we had Sistema in Norwich play and that is a perfect example where children and young people, who maybe have not had the best start or opportunities, are given skills and a sense of who they are and how they have a role in the wider world through arts and activities.'

She said the AD:UK conference brought together people who work in arts development across the country to share ideas. The conference is held in a different place each year, and Ms Wilson said Norfolk offered great examples for people to take back to their communities elsewhere. As part of the conference programme, yesterday delegates visited places such as Norwich University of the Arts, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich arts venue The Garage and SeaChange Arts in Great Yarmouth.

The conference continues at The Halls today.

Do you have a Norwich arts story? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at

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